RESPECTED Caribbean disaster management expert Dr Barbara Carby has given her support to the installation of breakwaters to help solve the problem of beach erosion in the tourism resort town of Negril.
“The breakwaters are designed to produce a low-energy environment, which would be beneficial to retaining the sand as well as allowing the sea grass to grow. That is the major objective of having the breakwaters,” she told the Gleaner.
Carby, head of the Disaster Risk Reduction Centre of the University of the West Indies, did not dismiss the value of beach nourishment, which is the option being lobbied for by local hoteliers. However, she said breakwaters would prove more useful over the long term.
“In the short term, beach nourishment certainly is an option but what we have to consider is that there is no guarantee that the sand will remain in place when it is put there whereas in the low-energy environment created by the breakwaters, we know the sand will be more stabilised, the sea grass will regrow over time — which is important for stabilising the sand as well as for producing the beach in the future,” she explained.
Her comments come as the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) — serving as the national implementing entity (NIE) for Jamaica’s US$10-million Adaptation Fund project of which the breakwaters form one component — and community stakeholders move toward a resolution.
The community has for several weeks now opposed the breakwaters, the specifications on which were changed following at least one public consultation, led by Carby herself, in 2012.
“The first concern was its location; the initial proposal, they [the community] said, was too close to the shore, hence this 1.5-kilometre setback. They were also worried about seeing a breakwater, which, of course, is quite understandable. So the location was so designed that it would be at sea level so it won’t be visually intrusive so the aesthetics of the beach would be preserved,” recalled Carby.
“The other concern they had was the fact that if it were too close to the beach then the watersports operators could not operate. So moving it back also facilitated operation of boats and watercraft. So adjustments were made based on the consultation I was involved in; I can’t speak for the others,” she added.
Meanwhile, in the face of community opposition, the PIOJ has convened additional public consultations, the quality of which, up to recently, community members have criticised.
The most recent one was held on June 27, involving Minister of Tourism Wykeham McNeill. The NIE also participated in a stakeholder meeting convened by Panos Caribbean on the issue, held in Negril on June 19. A third meeting is to be held today — this one focused on the environmental impact assessment done on the breakwaters.
— Petre Williams-Raynor